A coalition seeking to influence the re-development of the storied Loretto Heights campus in southwest Denver is calling for City Councilman Kevin Flynn to return campaign contributions from the developers involved.
The 70-acre Loretto Heights campus -- located at 3001 S. Federal Blvd. -- is home to the now-shuttered Colorado Heights University (CHU). It's distinguishable by its large, red-hued administration building and tower that can be seen from both US-285 (Hampden Avenue) and Federal Boulevard.
Flynn, who represents District 2, has long been involved in the area's redevelopment plan, which hit a tipping point in the summer after Glendale-based Westside Investment Partners purchased the property for $16.5 million with the intention of redeveloping it. The property was previously owned by the Teikyo Group, a Japanese education foundation.
The Loretto Heights Community Initiative (LHCI) late last week sent an open letter to Flynn asking him to return $4,000 in campaign contributions from individuals and organizations who LHCI spokesperson Jim Gibson said are tied to the developers.
Gibson said the contributions create a conflict of interest.
"WIP is going to ask for a rezoning request. A rezoning request can have a big impact on property values," Gibson said. "City council makes the ultimate decision as to whether to grant that rezoning request."
Gibson added that although it's an "unwritten rule," other council members will take their cues from Flynn, something that could impact the integrity of the vote, he said.
In a letter responding to LHCI, Flynn said elected officials have hundreds of campaign contributors "while routinely making decisions that affect them, for better or worse."
"Let me state flatly, I will have no hesitation siding against a campaign contributor when there’s a conflict with what’s best for Denver or for District 2," Flynn said.
Flynn also said $1,000 of the $4,000 in campaign contributions mentioned by LHCI came from Doug McKinnon, who Flynn said in an email to 9NEWS "is completely uninvolved in the campus and planning process."
McKinnon is a broker who represented the seller, Teikyo Group, in the July deal.
"All he did was represent the seller," Flynn said.
LCHI in its open letter also asked that a Tuesday night steering committee meeting to discuss the Loretto Heights' Small Area Plan be delayed to discuss the potential for conflicts of interest with respect to Flynn's campaign contributions. A small area plan is a document that outlines specific recommendations to achieve a vision for future site design.
Flynn said delaying the meeting would "have the opposite result from what we all want."
The meeting is still scheduled to proceed tonight from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Loretto Heights' library.
LCHI's letter also asked that Jason Morrison recuse himself as the community and planning development project manager of the Loretto Heights campus. Morrison, who was recently appointed to the planning role, was formerly employed by the Pachner Company, a government consulting and lobbying firm that now represents Westside Investment Partners, according to the letter.
"[Morrison] is not a member of the steering committee, he is helping to facilitate our process," Flynn said in his letter responding to LCHI. "Throughout one’s professional career, there are relationships with numerous people. Having interned with a firm in the past does not create a conflict years later in dealing with clients of that firm, especially those that weren't clients at the time."
Another item in LCHI's letter asks that Flynn "be allegiant in your positions vis-à-vis Westside Investment Partners and the City Administration and its agencies."
"Asking me to have allegiance to my community is like asking me to breathe oxygen. Everything I have done since taking office – every vote, action and decision – has been with the best interest of Denver," Flynn said in response.
Flynn also said he has four priorities for the Loretto Heights' redevelopment plan. They are:
- Preservation, at a minimum, of the Loretto Academy and Chapel.
- Preservation of the historic cemetery.
- Maintenance of a view corridor to the Loretto Academy building from Federal Boulevard.
- Not allowing through-traffic from Federal into Dartmouth Heights and Harvey Park.
Flynn said he does not intend to push the steering committee in any direction.
Gibson, on behalf of LCHI, said he would like to see Flynn return the campaign contributions.